Victor Davis Hanson has a tragic view of the universe. It comes naturally. As a former professor of classics, decades of working with Homer, Sophocles, Virgil and Horace, Greek history and studying ancient warfare, he says, have taught him that there are certain “immutable laws.” We all age and die. Humans are selfish. Power is might.
He believes the President and his ilk think that if Obama meets with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin, “they’re going to be charmed, they’re going to be impressed, they’re going to see the logic of his enlightened mind, and his way of thinking–that wars don’t start the way the Greeks said they did, because of honour, or pride or fear.”
After Jimmy Carter failed not only to rescue the U.S. economy, but set in motion a deleterious series of foreign policy fiascos, voters turned to Ronald Reagan’s promise to fight Communism again, and free the hostages. The seriousness and credibility of Reagan’s threat of power was enough: Tehran released its remaining captives minutes after his inauguration. The tragic view of the world, he says, insists that keeping tyrants in check means raising the price of their mischief to an intolerable point.
“You have to be resigned to the fact that at some point, what makes Iran not shoot a missile at Israel, or North Korea cross the 38th parallel, is their fear of repercussions,” he says.
After Obama, Mr. Hanson predicts, Americans will surely remember the importance of a leader who intimidates the United States’ rivals. It may not feel as therapeutic, but, he believes, a world ruled by an unrepentantly hegemonic America is a lot less tragic a result than the alternatives.